The Yoga of Motherhood

March 19, 2015 in Divine nature, Intuition, joy, Lani, Marriage, meditation, Motherhood, Pain, Parenting, Rebirth, Rites of passage, Yoga

 

Perhaps the essential purpose of all relationships is to create the laboratory in which we uncover our own divine nature and encourage theirs. -M. Catherine Thomas

In perusing the journal I wrote during my first pregnancy, I chuckled to myself when I stumbled upon these words (written September 10, 2003, just a couple of weeks before I gave birth):

Sometimes I almost wish for a trial or challenge to come so that I can be refined by its fire. . . . I almost hope that motherhood will be a challengeWell, I know that it will be a great challenge. But I hope I will look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow every day. Because I do want so much to develop and become a better, more loving and more Christ-like person.

The very next entry wasn’t until two months later, November 21. I wrote this:

I said last time I wrote that I sort of wished for a trial to come. Well, it certainly came. The first few days and weeks after my baby was born were some of the most difficult of my life. I didn’t get any real sleep until after we came home from the hospitalwhich was two days after her birth. I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the new role of mother. I was having difficulty breastfeedingwhich made everything more difficult. . . . Plus I was trying to recover from childbirth (which left me with multiple tears and lots of pain). It was hard for me to do virtually anything because it hurt to move.

292750_10150389550991900_1798837661_n

The remaining pages of that journal include a lot of venting about the challenges of caring for a very high-needs baby (who turned into a wonderful young lady, by the way). She didn’t sleep well, she didn’t eat well, she wanted to be held constantly, etc. etc. In June of 2004, I wrote down a passage from a book that helped me put things into perspective: “One of the greatest surprises, and greatest joys, comes as you realize that those have-to’s in your life actually got you where you wanted to be all along” (Emily Watts, Being the Mom). Indeed they have. My four children, and all the have-to’s that come with them, have done exactly what I hoped for as a soon-to-be mother: they have made me into a “better, more loving and more Christ-like person.”

Loveliest of the arts

Back in February I started Kundalini Yoga teacher training, so naturally I’ve got yoga on the brain. What is yoga? Here’s how Yogi Bhajan describes it:

Yoga is essentially a relationship. Consider the origin of the word “yoga.” Yoga, as we in the West understand it, has come from the biblical word, yoke. This originated from the root word in Sanskrit: jugit. They both mean “to join together,” or “to unite.” Yoga is the union of the individual’s unit consciousness with the Infinite Consciousness. The definition of a yogi is a person who has totally leaned on the Supreme Consciousness, which is God, until he or she has merged the unit self with the Infinite Self. That is all it means (The Aquarian Teacher, p. 14).

So the ultimate goal of yoga is union with God. How do we unite with God?

Last weekend in teacher training, our instructor said: “Confront your ego/shadow self until you get to I am, I Am.” After saying this, she shared a story about her early years as a yogi in Brooklyn, NY, living in the ashram. Every morning before sunrise, she went to group sadhana [daily yoga/meditation practice]. She had grown up as an only child, so it was quite an experience being with all of those people. She said that life in the ashram was: constantly having people pushing your buttons, triggering your stuff. As she said those words, I thought: sounds like a family. Isn’t that why God gave us families? To help us confront our egos, our shadow selves, until we get to I Am?

Byron Katie has said:

The people we most need are the people we’re living with now. Again and again, they will show us the truth we don’t want to see, until we see it. Our parents, our children, our spouses and our friends will continue to press every button we have, until we realize what it is that we don’t want to know about ourselves yet (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, Light in the Wilderness, p. 165).

And Richard Rohr has said:

So we absolutely need conflicts, relationship difficulties, moral failures, defeats to our grandiosity, even seeming enemies, or we will have no way to ever spot or track our shadow self. They [others] are our necessary mirrors (qtd. in M. Catherine Thomas, The Godseed, p. 168).

Yogi Bhajan called marriage between a man and woman the highest yoga: “Male and female make a union and this complete union is the greatest yoga” (The Master’s Touch, p. 138). Indeed, marriage provides ample opportunities for confronting our shadow selves, refining our behavior, and drawing closer to God. Perhaps it’s because I married a very kind, easy-to-live-with guy, but marriage hasn’t been my highest yoga. For me, it has been the yoga of motherhood that has tested and refined me most of all.

Yogi Bhajan taught that it was the job of a yoga teacher to “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate.” If that is the case, no one has been a greater teacher to me than my children. No spiritual practice has done more to purify my soul than motherhood. Yogi Bhajan said: “The ocean is a very calm thing, but when the winds are heavy and high, then it’s very choppy. The wind represents your egothe higher the ego, the choppier is a person’s life.” Clearly I came to this world with a whole lot of ego to process through. My teachers have had quite a job to do, and they have done it very well.

22762_332958991899_2956548_n 25614_422847301899_5317799_n 1915863_426480311899_3092008_n 192633_10150165477411900_7997827_o 192866_10150337666231900_5711211_o 10003612_10152244753121900_1254963119_o 703729_10151393958536900_1578226980_o 1916589_224252061899_4184907_n 14431_209916016899_7849807_n

Being a mother has required more discipline, patience, endurance, sacrifice, strength, selflessness, service, intuition, love, and reliance upon God than anything I have ever done. Mothers partner with God in a way that no one else can. I put this slideshow together as a tribute to the divine yoga of motherhood.

I remember when Dallin H. Oaks shared this story in conference:

One of our family members recently overheard a young couple on an airline flight explaining that they chose to have a dog instead of children. “Dogs are less trouble,” they declared. “Dogs don’t talk back, and we never have to ground them.”

True. Dogs are lovely companions. But we’re in this life to be refined into godliness. Yoga is the “sacred science of god-realization.” I thank heaven for my four excellent yoga teachers who “poke, provoke, confront, and elevate” me daily.

10993521_10153032522456900_4784908435553160281_o

Where the Wild Things Are

January 19, 2015 in Angels, Atonement, Holy Ghost, Intuition, Jesus Christ, Lani, Personal Revelation, Power of Words, Traditions, Zion

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? -Matthew 5:13

I was looking in the topical guide of the scriptures under “witness” this morning. As my eyes wandered over the page, they fell on the entry for “witch, witchcraft.” The first scripture under that heading is Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” It’s no question that the Law of Moses was intense, and I suppose this statement about witches shouldn’t have surprised me, but still I couldn’t help wincing as I read it. It took me instantly back to my childhood visit to the Salem Witch Museum and my adolescent introduction to Monty Python’s witch scene. How many innocent women have been killed through the ages because they have been labeled as witches? I was relieved to learn that Joseph Smith changed this passage in his translation of Exodus: “The JST refers not to a ‘witch,’ but to a ‘murderer’—’Thou shalt not suffer a murderer to live'” (Source).

Regardless of whether the original text referred to witches or murderers, it’s still clear in the Bible that witchcraft wasn’t kosher. What did the word “witch” mean to the Israelites? According to this commentary: “In every form of witchcraft there is an appeal to a power not acting in subordination to the divine law. From all such notions and tendencies true worship is designed to deliver us.” I think the key in that passage is “an appeal to a power not acting in subordination to the divine law.” True worship is designed to deliver us from anything that is outside of at-one-ment with God. Witchcraft, in that context, would be a form of false worship, one that draws us outside the realm of at-one-ment with God.

Personally, I don’t think God wants any of us labeling each other as witches. But I do think God wants us to draw near unto Him, and at times we need to discern whether a particular practice or person is going to help us at-one with God or take us further away from God. Discernment, not judgment. So many have been called witches or heretics simply because their actions or ideas were different. Wild people can actually be some of the grooviest in God’s eyes. I think we can use the spirit of discernment to determine what type of “wild thing” we’re dealing with.

Wild Thing #1

wildthing

This picture cracks me up. I can’t help myself. It comes from the New Testament Stories picture book. This is a wild man. Though the picture makes me laugh, his actual story is no laughing matter. He lived in a cemetery by the Sea of Galilee in mountains and caves, cried all the time, and would cut himself with stones. The people tried to restrain him with chains, but he would just break the chains. It turns out there were thousands of unclean spirits possessing his body, urging him to do wild things. After Jesus Christ cast the spirits out of the man’s body, he was in his “right mind” and wanted to follow Christ (see Mark 5).

Some wild people are much like this man. They do wild things because unclean or evil spirits are in possession of their bodies. There is a distinction between being possessed of evil spirits and being, in fact, evil. This was a good man. We don’t know why the evil spirits flooded his body. Mary called Magdalene (“tower of strength”) had seven devils cast out of her. Personally, I suspect that many who are afflicted with unclean or evil spirits are highly sensitive spiritually but not yet aware of their own power to protect themselves. Unclean spirits, seeking relief from their own torments, hang around these sensitive individuals because of their openness, spiritual awareness, and healing potential. This would include some who experience what the world calls “mental illness.”

I don’t have time to go into this subject further, but I will say that throughout Christ’s ministry he spent a lot of time casting spirits out of good people. Look past behavior and into people’s hearts. The Holy Ghost can guide us to know how to help them. Generally, chains are a bad idea, I think.

Wild Thing #2

So this guy named Korihor started preaching. What he said was kind of wild, very unconventional, anti-establishment stuff. Korihor wanted the people to leave behind their religious beliefs and practices which he called “foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads” (Alma 30). On the surface, his words seemed to be about empowerment and freedom, so lots of people liked what he had to say. Elder Faust has said, “Satan is the world’s master in the use of flattery, and he knows the great power of speech, a power his servants often employ” (Source).

korihor

This picture cracks me up too (source).

Using the spirit of discernment, Giddonah (the high priest) saw the hardness of Korihor’s heart, refused to contend with him, and sent him to Alma. After conversing with Alma and begging for a sign, Korihor was struck dumb. In his shock and despair, Korihor explained (in writing) that he had been deceived by a devil disguised as an angel of light (vs. 53). Because of the “angel’s” words, Korihor believed that he was doing the right thing, that he was “reclaiming the people” who had “gone astray.” Deep down Korihor “always knew that there was a God,” but he allowed himself to be deceived because the words given to him by the angel of darkness were “pleasing unto the carnal mind” a.k.a. ego/natural man.

Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is right and what is wrong. Is a revelation coming from God or is it the whisperings of the devil? Being anti-establishment wasn’t Korihor’s crime. Christ himself was very anti-establishment. Christ was the supreme “wild man.” Rather, Korihor’s downfall was allowing himself to be deceived by pleasing words. If what a “wild person” says sounds empowering but comes from a place of anger and accusation and anti-Christ, the Holy Ghost will guide us to discard their words and pull away from their influence. “The spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).

Wild Thing #3

Now I’d like to head over and visit Enoch for a bit. God called Enoch to prophesy to the people. At the time, Enoch was overwhelmed, saying, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” God assured Enoch, saying, “Go forth and do as I have commanded thee, and no man shall pierce thee. Open thy mouth, and it shall be filled, and I will give thee utterance” (Moses 6). This seems to be a pattern with God. He likes to pick the weathered and lowly as spokespeople.

So Enoch went among the people, stood up on high places, and spoke (loudly) the words that God gave to him. In response the people said:

“There is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us.”

The people were deeply offended by Enoch’s words.  Unlike Korihor’s, Enoch’s words were not “pleasing unto the carnal mind.” Sometimes wild people say things that make us uncomfortable. What Enoch said was true, but it made the people very uncomfortable.

If someone’s words make us uncomfortable, the answer is not to automatically discard those words but rather to dive into ourselves and determine why those words are making us uncomfortable. Are the words attempting to pull us out of our comfort zones into an opportunity for growth? God delights in provoking us to leave behind comfort when it is holding us back from our potential. We can’t always rely on our comfort level as a means of discerning Truth. Follow the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Galations 5:22-23).

Enoch was a wild man, but he was a wild man of God. Because some had courage to believe Enoch’s uncomfortable words and be taught by him, Zion was built!

city-of-zion-taken-up-82612-wallpaper

So, in summary, not all wild people are “witches” or “heretics.” Wild people can actually be spiritual super stars. If Enoch’s city is any indication, I’d wager that the New Jerusalem will be built by a whole lotta wild things. When we’re faced with a weird new idea, practice, or person, we can use the spirit of discernment to determine whether that person, practice, or perception is going to help us at-one with God or take us further away from God. Zion is built only by those who have learned how to at-one with our Heavenly Parents through at-one-ment with Christ. Doing what’s right is often unconventional. When in Rome, at-one with Christ regardless of what the Romans are doing. If people call you a “witch” because of it, respond, “I’m not a witch, I’m a wild woman!” And take heart that Enoch’s probably virtually/spiritually fist-bumping you.

Don’t Quit, Keep Playing

May 4, 2014 in Adversity, Atonement, Depression, Grace, Lani, Savior, Thoughts

.

The Sunday School and Relief Society lessons at church today were so inspiring, and I felt impressed to spill some of my thoughts about those lessons onto paper (or screen) here.

First, for whatever reason, I get really excited when I find scriptures that demonstrate the humanity and weakness of the Lord’s prophets (Mosiah 2:11 and 2 Nephi 4:17, I love you guys). Seeing their struggles helps me let go of shame about my own. Maybe you’ve always known about this time in Moses’ life, but I must have been asleep that day in seminary. I’m not a prophet leading thousands of frustrated people to the Promised Land, but these verses (from Numbers 11) were a gift to me today:

11 And Moses said unto the Lord, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? . . .

14 I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me.

15 And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness.

The footnote for “out of hand” in the last verse lets us know that it could be translated as “immediately.” So Moses was basically saying, “God, this is too hard. If this is how it’s going to be, please just kill me now.” I turned to my husband, grinned wide, and laughed as I heard those verses. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve uttered words like that to God and my husband on dark days. Moses, you are a guy I can relate to!

Then, in Relief Society, the lesson was about grace. It seems such a hard thing to define something so divine as grace. I still don’t feel that I could necessarily give you a definition of grace. But I loved this story our teacher shared from President Faust about a young piano student:

His mother, wishing to encourage him, “bought tickets for a performance of the great Polish pianist, Paderewski. The night of the concert arrived and the mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall. While the mother visited with friends, the boy slipped quietly away.

“Suddenly, it was time for the performance to begin and a single spotlight cut through the darkness of the concert hall to illuminate the grand piano on stage. Only then did the audience notice the little boy on the bench, innocently picking out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’

“His mother gasped, but before she could move, Paderewski appeared on stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And then, leaning over, the master reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

“In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and time again, ‘Don’t quit. Keep playing.’ And as we do, He augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. He is right there with all of us, telling us over and over, ‘Keep playing’” (Source).

As I heard this story, my eyes welled up with tears. Sometimes, playing my little “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” feels like the hardest thing in the world. And the Master’s request, “Don’t quit. Keep playing,” feels like the tallest order ever given. Endure to the end? Really? I so often respond, as Moses did, “It is too heavy for me,” and in my darkest moments, “Kill me, I pray thee.”

But grace. Grace.

God told Moses: “Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel. . . . and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:16-17).

Grace comes to us in so many different ways. For me, in my life, grace has so often come to me in the same way it came to Moses here… people. God gives me people to help me bear my burden–doulas to give me counter-pressure through the hardest contractions. In October of 2012, after surviving many months of intense darkness and despair, I wrote a thank you letter to some of the “doulas” who had been the grace that kept me going. To them, I said:

And now, looking back over that valley of heartbreak behind me, I can see just how beautiful it was. Your words and actions have illustrated in vivid detail the beauty and perfection of God’s loving, tender mercies. You have painted a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering. If I hadn’t needed you so desperately, I would never have had the privilege of witnessing those countless acts of love and friendship.

Grace is the reason I’m still here. Grace is the reason I haven’t quit. Grace is the reason I keep playing my little song. Grace is the Master turning that feeble song into something beautiful. Grace is God painting a magnificent masterpiece on the canvas of my suffering.

Grace is yours too.

Don’t quit. Keep playing.

Becoming Zion: Book Recommendations

January 17, 2014 in Book reviews, Divine nature, Intuition, Jesus Christ, joy, Lani, Motherhood, Music, Preparation, Savior, Temple, Zion

So I’ve been a bit obsessed of late with Zion. Can you feel the momentum like I can? Things are happening. We are being prepared for big things. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I feel in my gut that we and our children and grandchildren will build Zion, we will BE Zion. I want to get there as quickly as possible. I’m done with darkness and misery and suffering. I can’t wait for light, truth, love, peace, wholeness, and Christ in our midst!  During a recent trauma-release session with a therapist, I was asked to go to a “special place” in my mind. I chose to place myself in the center of Zion’s temple because there was no safer place I could imagine. It was awesome, at least in my imagination.

Maybe you’re as eager as I am? If so, here are some books you might love (if you haven’t read them yet)…

81pYSv-cBJL1) The Triumph of Zion: Our Personal Quest for the New Jerusalem, by John M. Pontius 

I started reading this book at the end of the summer last year (after reading another of his books, Visions of Glory). The vast amount of information contained in The Triumph of Zion made me overlook its minor flaws. I learned so much from this book about Zion, translation (the spiritual kind, not the language kind), the Second Coming, etc. There is a lot of repetition and rehashing of the same information, but I tried to see it as an intentional gift to really embed the information in my brain rather than as an editing mishap. If you want to better understand what needs to happen in order for Zion to be built, this is a great resource.

 

64982762) Light in the Wilderness: Explorations in the Spiritual Life, by M. Catherine Thomas

After two separate strong, wonderful, spiritual women recommended this book to me, I knew it was time. I think I have marked almost every single paragraph in the book with my red pencil and stars and circles and notes. This is one of my new all-time favorite books ever.

If you know Truman G. Madsen’s work, it may interest you to know that his review is quoted on the back cover of Light in the Wilderness: “This remarkable and penetrating book deals with some of the toughest spiritual issues of our time.” I discovered Truman G. Madsen as a teenager and devoured all the books my stepmom had by him. She later gifted them all to me, and I absolutely treasure them. In fact, Truman G. books were the only spiritual books I could stomach during my battle with anxiety/depression in 2012. He was the thread that kept me connected to God. I love him. Light in the Wilderness reminds me a lot of Madsen’s style.

M. Catherine Thomas is a convert, a mother of six, has a PhD in ancient history, taught at BYU and the Jerusalem Center, and has served four Spanish-speaking missions with her husband. I hope I can hear her speak someday. I love her! Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Everything in the Cosmos is playing music based on its particular configuration and vibration. The spheres are full of music. The elements of our physical world play the music given them by their Creator, but . . . we shall see that Man can choose to a degree the energy by which he will vibrate and the music that he will play” (p. 39).

“One day our former glories will be unveiled again; meanwhile, just the knowledge that we are full of unutterable wonders can light our way–yes, can cause us to question our current perceptions of reality and expand toward greater ones” (p. 64).

“But setting aside a human tendency to be gripped by fearful or miserable thoughts, we can quietly, deliberately, and deeply entertain the possibility of the opposite of what the thought is tempting us to believe. What might be a truer way of looking at this situation?” (p. 82).

“How important it is to realize that like is drawn to like: intelligence to intelligence, truth to truth, light to light (see D&C 88:40), but also anger to anger and pain to pain. We will draw to ourselves the sort of energy from unseen beings that we ourselves entertain” (p. 186).

I can’t wait to read this book again, and again, and again. It is like a manual for becoming pure in heart, becoming Zion.

 

97803408243753) The Mozart Effect, by Don Campbell

As I’ve written before, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Zion’s builders/inhabitants it is this: they SING. Over and over and over the scriptures declare that Zion is home to those who sing “songs of everlasting joy.” I got a copy of The Mozart Effect for a few dollars at Goodwill last year and promptly started devouring it. I learned so much about the healing power of music and song from this book. It’s dated (making reference to cassette tapes, etc.) since it was written back in the 90’s, but the information is still as pertinent as ever. If you want to have a better understanding of why Zion’s inhabitants will spend so much time singing (and making music, I’m sure), this book is a great overview.

 

babyandhandxsm4) The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth

Ha ha! Really though. I have long felt that we were inspired to write our book when we did because it would play a part in preparing the mothers of Zion to birth and raise the most powerful spiritual army that has ever lived. You may have heard the phrase often quoted by birth advocates: “Peace on earth begins with birth.” I absolutely believe this is true. And Satan knows it too, which is why he has worked so hard to disempower women in their life-giving journeys from the very beginning of their journeys. If he can throw a wrench in a mother’s views about her body, about her own strength, her connection to her baby, her faith in her intuition from the very beginning, he’s gone a long way toward accomplishing his efforts to weaken families. But if we can strengthen a mother from the very beginning, if we can lift her and support her and help her discover her own power and intuition, we have made huge strides toward weakening Satan’s influence over that particular family. The Gift of Giving Life can strengthen the mothers of Zion, and the mothers of Zion will help usher in a millenia of peace. This army of peace is being unleashed upon the earth even as we speak, and it is growing. So exciting! If you haven’t read our book yet, we hope you will!

Do you have some other Zion-focused book recommendations?

Please share in the comments! 

He will make her wilderness like Eden

December 13, 2013 in Adversity, Depression, Lani, Nourishment, Pain, Personal Revelation, Savior, Waiting, Zion

A few days ago I opened my scriptures in a random place… Jacob 5:

21 And it came to pass that the servant said unto his master: How comest thou hither to plant this tree, or this branch of the tree? For behold, it was the poorest spot in all the land of thy vineyard.

22 And the Lord of the vineyard said unto him: Counsel me not; I knew that it was a poor spot of ground; wherefore, I said unto thee, I have nourished it this long time, and thou beholdest that it hath brought forth much fruit.

I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself lately. Lamenting this weak and flawed body/mind I’ve been given. It often feels like my spirit was planted in a very “poor spot of ground,” a very screwed-up, broken body/mind. I have a crooked and sometimes painful back, very poor eyesight, multiple food and chemical sensitivities that sometimes give me head and body aches, anxiety and panic attacks, depression, and other ailments. It’s exhausting living in this body. Sometimes I sincerely doubt my ability to endure to the end.

As I pondered the scriptures I opened to, I saw what God was trying to tell me. Yes, I was planted in what could be called a “poor spot of ground.” But God knew exactly where He was planting me. In fact, my patriarchal blessing specifies that I was placed exactly where I am for a reason: “It is in this environment that you have been brought forth and placed in the families that you have been raised.” And even in this poor spot of ground, God has nourished me with intellect, talents, spiritual gifts, and lots of family and friends who love and support me. Through that abundant nourishment from God, I have, indeed, brought forth much fruit.

Then yesterday, I opened up my scriptures to Mosiah 2, to the beginning of King Benjamin’s address. And I noticed a scripture I hadn’t really “seen” before:

9 And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, . . . hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.

10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should . . . think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.

11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind.

I know our prophets are not perfect. I know they experience challenges just like the rest of us. But in that moment it just really struck me as a tender mercy to know that King Benjamin himself was open about experiencing “infirmities of the body and mind.” And I loved that he didn’t just say “infirmities.” He specified that both his body and his mind were affected. As one who experiences infirmities of both the body and the mind, it was comforting. King Benjamin did so much good. There’s no disputing that he played a crucial role on this earth. And he didn’t let his infirmities stand in his way. That inspires me.

 

My mom is always telling me that she never expected me to live very long. I don’t know if it was motherly intuition or just her own imagination. She often says things like, “You didn’t need to come here to be proven, but you wanted to come to make a difference in a world full of problems.” I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t know how long God “will suffer that I may live.” But I pray that God’s grace will hold me up and carry me through whatever my future has in store… that I can bring forth more fruit unto the Lord, despite my infirmities. I also hold out hope in the promise found in Ether: “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (12:27).

In two days, I’m singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” with a small group of women in sacrament meeting (pray this sore throat doesn’t get in the way!). I chose the song, in part, because it felt like a very personal prayer/lament. I long for the END. I long for the reign of peace and love. I ache for the day when darkness is destroyed, when the waste places of the world shall blossom like Eden, when my broken body will be made whole. O come, O come. Please come.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

For My Own Spiritual Growth

May 23, 2013 in Angels, Birth Stories, Book, Dads, Doulas, Dreams, Faith, Fear, Felice, home birth, Midwives, Personal Revelation, Prayer, Preparation, Temple

For My Own Spiritual Growth

By Nicole Cunningham

Something I used to frequently say regarding childbirth was that I was born in the last days because Heavenly Father knew I couldn’t handle a natural childbirth and knew I needed epidurals. It was something I would always joke about, but also really believed. I might be mentally strong, spiritually strong, but physically strong? No way. That was not for me. I wasn’t a hardy pioneer woman that pushed handcarts and gave birth along the Mormon trail. Heavenly Father knew me and knew my mental and physical limitations. Or so I thought.

My first son was induced ten days early due to cholestasis. I had an epidural, pushed for 3 hours due to his posterior position, and he was delivered via forceps. Overall, the experience was fine, despite the complications of everything, and I was grateful for my beautiful healthy, round-faced boy. My second son was also induced upon my request because I was tired of being pregnant and, to be honest, was nervous about going into labor naturally because I had never felt a non-pitocin contraction without the promise of a speedy epidural nearby. Something that touched me about the birth of my second son was when my sweet doctor said, “Reach down Nicole and pull out your son.” I had no idea I could participate in that way and hold him immediately on my chest for as long as I wanted! What a sweet experience that was.

Nine months before we conceived our third baby, I nonchalantly decided to watch The Business of Being Born. I knew that it would talk about all the risks of having an epidural and everything that goes with that, but I thought it might be interesting to watch. I enjoyed the documentary and found it informative but, quite honestly, I felt like it made home birth look terrible! Despite how I felt about the film, I could not shirk the feeling in the days that followed that my next baby should be born without an epidural or any other form of pain medications. I cannot tell you how hard I thought this was going to be for me! I tried to ignore the feeling, but I knew the Spirit was telling me all too clearly that this was what I needed to do. I cried every time I thought about it. I didn’t understand why Heavenly Father wanted me to do this. I was the woman who LOVES her epidurals–I was no pioneer.

I asked for my Heavenly Father’s guidance to help me not be afraid–that if I was really supposed to do this, I asked for Him to help me become as prepared as I could. I asked for His guidance every step of the way, through every decision. I would always find myself asking, “Why do you want me to do this?” “Is it for the health of my baby?” “Is something going to happen?” and every time, I would receive the same calming answer, “For your own spiritual growth.”

I soon found myself diving into everything I could learn about natural childbirth. A friend told me about hypnobirthing, water birth, and dear Ina May Gaskin. I continued to devour anything I could on birth. I was going to fill my brain with every morsel of natural birth knowledge that I could and let the Spirit guide. I took a hypnobirthing class at the hospital with my husband and then later ordered the Hypnobabies home-study course with a friend. I really wanted a water birth, but found out that the hospitals in my area wouldn’t allow them, so I started to look into home birth.

Deciding on a home birth was a very difficult decision–one that took so much study, pondering and prayer. We felt good about it and once we made the decision, we felt so much peace. A few days after we decided, my husband had a dream that the home birth was a peaceful experience and that everything went well. This all happened before I got pregnant, so when we finally did (9 months after the prompting), we were so excited! I could finally begin my journey!

Something that really bothered me was the feeling of being alone in what I was doing. Why was I learning all of this wonderful information, but couldn’t find any natural or home birth stories from LDS women? I felt like I was being grouped into the stereotype of the “typical” home birth mom like you see in the movies. I wanted to know about other mothers that shared my same beliefs and had also done home births. My friend sent me a link to Heather’s blog, Women in the Scriptures, and I devoured all of her posts on birth and the symbolism and spirituality that goes with it. I saw on her blog an icon for The Gift of Giving Life. I eagerly waited for the book to be published and for my copy to arrive. The day it came in the mail was like Christmas; I was yearning for the information and support inside.

Before I was married and preparing to go to the temple, I would do baptisms and while waiting in the chapel, read Elder Packer’s book, The Holy Temple. The entirety of that book was read inside the temple. For me, it was a wonderful way to prepare, and I looked at reading The Gift of Giving Life in the same way–a wonderful way to prepare for a sacred event. What an uplifting light it gave to my pregnancy! Whenever I was discouraged or nervous, I would read and then would feel such calm reassurance that everything would be fine. Armed with Hypnobabies, The Gift of Giving life, and supportive friends and family, I had such an amazing pregnancy. Everything was different compared to my last pregnancies–my outlook was more positive and that in turn helped physically. I felt so bonded to my baby, and so at peace. We found 2 great midwives who we felt so blessed to work with. Even though they were an hour and a half away, we still felt we made the right decision. I felt so uplifted, cared for and loved after every appointment with them.

871326072459264_a-4cf2abaa_m2OWUQ_pmMy baby’s guess birth date came and went and it was amazing how my perspective had changed compared to my other pregnancies. Every day “overdue” wasn’t an eternity of complaints and impatience, but just another day to prepare spiritually. I looked at approaching the birth of my sweet baby as a sacrament, an ordinance–something that I wanted to be spiritually worthy of. I wanted to be completely clean. With my other births, I looked at birth as merely a medical event that I had to go through, to get the end result. The spirit and love in our home was very tangible to us because of our preparation.

The night before Kate was born, I went upstairs to read in bed and write in my journal. I pondered about our upcoming home birth and wondered how it would all turn out and when it would come. I felt content to continue to be patient and was just enjoying the end of what to me was a simple but perfect day with my little family. My husband came up to the room and we talked a while about the birth and how excited we were and how crazy it was to not know when the baby would come (we were so used to planned inductions).

He left the bedroom to get some things together for his classes the next day, while I said my nightly prayers. I told my Father in Heaven that I hoped that I was ready for the baby to come, that I would have faith in my body and faith that everything would turn out fine. I expressed some concern about being a week over, but said I would leave it in His hands. I prayed for the health of my growing baby as usual, but for the first time prayed for my baby as a person, an adult spirit that was about to join our family. We didn’t know the gender but had feelings that we were having a girl. I tried to picture this beautiful spirit and what she was feeling as she was about to start her life on earth, in our family. A very beautiful feeling of love and peace came over me and a very powerful message of “Thank you” was communicated. I KNEW this was from the child that was about to join our family and it is an experience I will never forget.

The next morning, on August 7th, 2012 I woke up around 8:30. My boys had let me sleep in. I took a shower and felt great. I was planning to take them to the park and meet a friend. As I went into the kitchen to make some eggs for breakfast, I felt a little twinge that felt like a stomachache and decided on a bowl of Wheaties instead. I did some other things around the house and then got on the computer to check my email. I texted back and forth with my friend about our plans to go to the park, then felt that same twinge of discomfort. I decided that I just wanted to rest and told my friend I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the park.

It was around 10:30 at this time. I went upstairs and lay down, put on a hypnobabies track and tried to rest, but these “twinges” kept coming. Of course I had started labor and what I was feeling were pressure waves (contractions), but of course I was in denial. Around 10:45 they were very close together, probably 2 minutes apart, so I texted my husband and said that maybe after his next appointment he could come home to be with me. I did admit that maybe I was in labor, but that it would probably slow down or the contractions would go away. Within 5 minutes of texting him, they grew more intense and I told him to come home now! He was home a little after 11 and he got the boys to the neighbors.

By this time I was really feeling things, but not knowing how to handle the intensity. Nothing seemed to help, I just wanted to pace around the house and I’m sure I looked pretty funny. My husband got back around 11:40, called the midwives and our doula and then started filling up the birthing tub. I asked him what he was doing and he proceeded to tell me that we were having a baby and was filling up the tub for our water birth. Of course I was still in major denial and told him the water would get cold and that I still had a long way to go before the baby came. I still even thought that maybe the pressure waves would stop and it was just false labor. But he continued to get things ready and was able to help me calm down long enough to lie on the bed and get a blessing. The blessing was beautiful–that everything would work out fine, that my body would know what to do and that angels were present, helping us. I immediately thought of both my grandmothers and hoped they would be there.

Around this time it was 12:30 and I was turning into quite the moaning, laboring mama. But it felt so good to just go with what my body was telling me to do. Around 12:40 our doula, Shari showed up and I felt like I came out of my own little world of “labor land” to tell her that at that moment I was getting a break. She asked how long my breaks were and I said, “maybe 20 seconds.” I remember thinking how silly I must have seemed to Shari and my husband, moaning so loudly so early on in the labor, like I was ready to have a baby or something. I was also noticing that it felt good to push, but of course in my head that wasn’t because the baby was coming, it was just because it felt good. I said I wanted to go to the restroom, so Shari and my husband helped me into the bathroom. I said I felt like vomiting and Shari informed us that I was probably in transition. That was the first time it occurred to me that I was really in labor, let alone about to birth my baby! I said, “The baby’s coming!” and they helped me back to the bedroom to the birthing tub. I got in, pushed a few times, the bag of waters broke and a few minutes later Kate was born at 12:56.

Shari grabbed her out of the water and handed her to Aaron. Aaron checked and said our baby was a girl and we both started crying. She opened her sweet eyes and calmly looked at her Daddy. He handed her to me and she immediately started nursing. Our sweet 9 1/2 pound healthy baby girl had joined our family.

Yes, the midwives were still on the way. Yes, that sounds crazy and many ask us if we were scared or panicked that we had an “unassisted” birth. And the answer is no we weren’t. Never did fear enter me during any time during my labor. I was too busy birthing my baby! But it was more than that. We knew that this was what we were supposed to do. That one prompting more than a year before led to that moment, when we knew everything would be okay, and it was.

In the hours and days that followed, my husband and I talked about Kate’s birth and the amazing experience it was. We discussed that had we not prepared for a home birth, the situation would have been traumatic and treated as an emergency. We would have called 911, or I would have had Kate in a car, or my front yard, who knows!

Many people ask me if we will have home births with the rest of our babies. I hope so. But only if the Lord says it’s okay. While pondering and internalizing the fast 2 1/2 hour labor I had with Kate and why we needed to have a natural, home birth, the answer to why, was not because it ended up being a fast labor (though I am sure that is part of it). The answer is still the one that has been given to me time and time again—“for my own spiritual growth.” Heavenly Father knows what we need to be closer to Him, and He will give us those experiences that are needed for us to completely and wholly rely on Him.

This was my journey in becoming more in tune with the Spirit. I learned to know the will of the Lord in my own life like I never had before. Has this experience turned me into a natural childbirth advocate? Yes! I love all things birth. Has it turned me into an anti-hospital, never have an epidural mom? No. It has turned me into a “seeker of personal revelation” advocate. That is what is most important–to include the Lord in the decisions you make. Because no doctor, midwife, or expert alone, of any kind, can tell you what is best for you or your baby. Giving birth does not need to be fearful. We all can do hard things—with the Lord’s help. Ponder, pray, and seek for knowledge and the Lord, who is our greatest Advocate, will help us know His will.

Thank you wonderful sisters for being inspired to write The Gift of Giving Life. I have told everyone about this book. I will give copies to anyone with a soft heart to listen to its message. And I can’t wait for the day when I can give Kate my own copy—highlighted and weathered, for her own journey into divine motherhood.

Every Member a Doula

February 15, 2013 in Adversity, Death, Doulas, Grief, Lani, Loss, Relief Society, Savior

Every Member a Doula
By Lani Axman

A few weeks ago, I was reading along in a book and was struck by some words. This was not a book about birth (on the contrary, it was about dealing with death), but it brought birth to my mind:

In order to be a truly helpful friend to the bereaved, we need to decide whether we can tolerate the other’s pain or not. It is extremely painful to be a witness to intense mourning. It is tempting, when uncomfortable because others are in the throes of grief, to shut them off, to encourage them to stop crying, to deny their pain, or to try to rush them through the painful mourning process. However, fully grieving is necessary and healthy. Denying another the opportunity to grieve fully is a great interference as well as a rejection.

This came from The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum. Judy Tatelbaum tells us that those in mourning need special care:

The breaved often need a special friend to act as a kind of spokesperson or intermediary. This person can also act as a confidant, as well as someone who can comfortably run interference for the grieving family. Such an intermediary needs to be comfortable protecting the bereaved, even if it means being impolite at times. . . .

It may help the bereaved to hear of our own experiences. . . . Our sharing can lift some of the painful aloneness felt by the bereaved and may contribute useful information as well. Others who have grieved can offer hope and a model for survival. . . . We should use judgment in sharing our experiences, knowing that we are talking to a very vulnerable human being whose needs at the moment are great.

I couldn’t resist writing in the margin of my book as I read these words: “doula” for grief.

You may have read Heather’s recent post about dolphins and doulas. In it she gives a lovely description of what a doula does for birthing mothers:

Creating a “circle of love” around a laboring woman is exactly what doulas do. Our job is not to help the woman give birth, she has to do that on her own power. Our job is to encircle her with support, protection, love, and to stand as a buffer between her and the rest of the world at such a vulnerable time in her life. A doulas top  priority is to help a woman’s loved ones circle around her and create that “circle of love” for her while she labors and births her baby.

My grandmother died last May, and for the past few months I’ve been coming to grips with that loss and allowing myself to recognize and express my grief. My grandmother raised me from the time I was a tow-headed two-year-old until I was nearly nine years old, and I spent all my summers and school vacations with her throughout the remainder of my childhood and adolescence. She was, in a very real sense, my “mother.” She was the most constant and consistent source of love and security in my life. So this past year has been a hard one as I’ve travelled through various emotional phases… denial of her death’s impact, panic, despair, guilt, recognition of my loss, etc., and I continue to heal a little more each day.

As I read Judy Tatelbaum’s book about grief and, in particular, the passages I quoted above, I realized that going through grief is not unlike giving birth. Both are highly sensitive, vulnerable, sacred, and emotionally and physically taxing experiences. In both situations, the support of the people around us is crucial. The birthing mother and the bereaved both need doulas to comfort, guard, and stand by them as they do their important work.

After I pondered this connection, I then I realized that the same is true for any crisis or challenging life experience. We all need doulas in our lives. The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek, meaning “a woman who serves.” Becoming doulas is exactly what the Savior has asked us to do:

As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort (Mosiah 18:9).

Ancient carving of a birthing woman receiving support

For those familiar with both Mormon and birth-lingo, perhaps we should proclaim: “Every member a doula!” Every member a “woman who serves.” I am deeply grateful to the people in my life who served me during this past year of vulnerability and grief. They were remarkable doulas, and as I have healed and become stronger I have tried to emulate their love and tenderness in doula-ing the “hands that hang down” (D&C 81:5) around me.

Whether you know someone in grief, in labor, tending to her hospitalized child, coming to grips with a terminal illness, suffering after a traumatic experience, reeling from a divorce, trying to heal from addiction, dying herself, or in any other challenging circumstance, please know that your friend desperately needs an angel in her Gethsemane to strengthen her (Luke 22:43). When we stand as the Savior’s doulas “at all times and in all things, and in all places,” He will “pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [us]” (Mosiah 18:9-10).

Sometimes I feel sad that I can’t be a professional birth doula at this time in my life, but it makes me happy to think that, in the meantime, I can be a doula to everyone I meet. I heart doula work.

2014-04-17 03.21.24 pm

Related Reading:

“The Angel Standing By,” by Elizabeth Day (in the “Pain” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“The Society for Relief,” by Felice Austin (in the “Fourth Trimester” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

“Healing from Loss and Other Sorrows,” by Robyn Allgood (in the “Atonement” section of The Gift of Giving Life)

Gestating in Grief, (Birth Faith)

What Friends Can Do, (Birth Faith)

Why hire a doula?, (Birth Faith)

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow

January 12, 2013 in Adversity, Gratitude, Lani, Postpartum Depression, Waiting

We’re kind of obsessed with rainbows at our house this week. We moved at the beginning of December, and so we’ve been trying to get organized. I’m not sure how or why I decided to turn the playroom/guest-room into a rainbow room, but that is what it has become. I guess it was partly because it seemed so fitting for this phase of our lives. We have now left behind the dark and stormy clouds that plagued me (and my little family) for much of 2012. And now we’re enjoying the cheerful skies and crisp clean air that come after a storm.

I’ve been pinning lots of ideas on my Pinterest board in this rainbow craze and adapting them for our playroom walls. Here’s one of our creations…

I wanted this message to be prominently displayed where my kids would see it often. Half of my children can’t read yet, but it won’t be long. And I hope that each of them will internalize the message. It’s one of the most basic lessons of mortality… opposition in all things. As President Uchtdorf has taught:

The scriptures tell us there must be opposition in all things, for without it we could not discern the sweet from the bitter. Would the marathon runner feel the triumph of finishing the race had she not felt the pain of the hours of pushing against her limits? Would the pianist feel the joy of mastering an intricate sonata without the painstaking hours of practice?

In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy.

Heather has written about this subject in our book (see “Travail and Joy” in the Pain chapter). I love what she says here:

If we allow it, travail can help us develop our souls into the women and men God would have us be. In Ether 12:27, God said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble . . . for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  Travail is a catalyst in which new life and new growth are created. To change something from one form into another requires a great amount of effort. For example, a chick must push and crack its egg to get out, and even the best ore must undergo extremely high temperatures before it becomes pure silver. It is through travail that our souls are stretched and pulled until at last—if we choose to allow it—we become reborn as stronger, more patient, understanding, and mature souls.

Having just emerged from a phase of travail (a birth canal, if you will), I can bear a second witness that what Heather wrote is true. I was stretched and pulled, I wrestled daily with God and Satan and angels and demons and who knows what else. I spent many moments painfully afraid that I would never see the “sun” again… that I would spend the rest of my existence in a pit of despair. It was an intense and crazy storm, but I survived. And I emerged. And I was, as Heather stated, “reborn a stronger, more patient, understanding, and mature soul.” And the sun did come out again. And there have been beautiful blue skies and rainbows to reward me for all that I endured. And I have even felt grateful for the storm that got me here.

A couple of nights ago, I was talking with my husband about how I was feeling. I told him how my experiences of the past year have given me a great gift. They have given me a deep appreciation and gratitude for “normal” days. I told him:

“I feel normal. I don’t want to die today. How AWESOME is that?”

When you’ve experienced deep darkness, every bit of light you’re able to recover feels monumental and celebratory. And when you find yourself climbing back to where “normal” used to be, it feels so extra-ordinary that you almost feel strange calling it “normal.” It’s no longer normal, it has now become AWESOME. And what used to be an “awesome day” has now become positively euphoric. I hope I never take for granted a normal day… never take for granted my will to live.

So if you find yourself weighed-down by dark clouds of despair, take heart. The sun will come out again. It will. And you may even be grateful for the clouds that made the sunshine all the more welcomed and cherished. Hang on, my friend.

How Would it Change Things if You Knew You Would Succeed?

October 4, 2012 in Adversity, Faith, Fear, Heather

On Sunday we had a wonderful speaker. She started our her talk by sharing some of the very personal things she had been through the last few years– her husband being deployed to Iraq, his inability to re-adapt to family life when he got home, his leaving her and her five kids, her divorce and sudden poverty, moving back in with family, his re-marriage to another woman, and the struggles that she had had to forgive and to keep going.

Her talk was powerful and heartfelt and I was so impressed by her positive attitude. I could tell that looking on the positive side of things was not something that came easy to her, but rather something she had worked diligently at. One thing that she said really stood out to me. She shared how during one of her hardest times that her mother had shared a story by sister Virgina Pearce with her. She paraphrased the story in her talk but I searched the internet and found original story. Here is what Sister Pearce said at BYU Women’s Conference in 1998 (read the whole talk here):

 This is a personal metaphor, but it helps me understand the power of guaranteed success.

I hate to shop. Did I say that strongly enough? I hate to shop.

I have very little skill and so have very limited success. And besides, I don’t have good feet.

Anyway, one day one of my daughters and I were shopping. She needed a particular piece of clothing for a particular occasion that would make her look close to spectacular. All this for a reasonable amount of money. Is that the worst formula? We started out in the morning full of energy and hope. But by early afternoon, we were dragging in and out of the dressing rooms. Her hair was full of static, my feet hurt, we were hungry, and we were getting grouchy. And then we had a startling idea. If we knew, absolutely guaranteed knew, that at the end of the afternoon we would have found the perfect dress, would it make any difference to how we felt now? We inventoried—the hair, the feet, the hunger, the discouragement—and we said unhesitatingly yes! We could easily go another three hours, if we knew there was unequivocal success ahead. And so we simply told ourselves that we were going to find the outfit—and, I am amazed to tell you, it worked! We were laughing and talking again instead of whining and dragging

Could it be the same with life? Do we get exhausted because we quit believing that success is assured? You know, it is! In the sooner and later context, it might not be sooner, but it will for sure be later.

“Thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever. He that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome, and shall receive an inheritance upon the earth when the day of transfiguration shall come” (D&C 63:20).

There must be dozens more implications, but I will only mention one more: We will expect to have to make this choice many, many times. Our ongoing responsibility is to keep offering ourselves and everything that we have and are to Him—to work actively but to cease judging each task with our mortal measurements. Great paradox of the gospel: In the total giving away, we receive total abundance, the only total security available. When we submit voluntarily and joyfully, far from being passive victims, we become victors, because we have accepted a partnership with an all-powerful and all-loving Being.

The sacrament speaker than said that this message had given her the courage to keep going forward because when ever she felt like giving up she’d ask herself, “How would my attitude change if I knew that everything was going to work out in the end?” She said that she had faith that God wanted her to be happy and had faith that He could do it. She said she began telling herself, “Everything is going to be fine in the end, so I should stop wasting energy being scared and angry and be happy now.”

And then my favorite part, she said, “Well, and if things are just going to get worse I for sure want to be happy now!”

As I listened to her I talked I began to think about how her message is an important one for women to remember during pregnancy and birth. The world tries to surround the process of pregnancy and birth with so much fear and anxiety that often times women can get so caught up in worrying about the unknowns–will the baby be okay? Will I be able to handle this pregnancy? How will I cope with labor? Will I get the support I want? Will I be a good mother to this child?

There are so many unknowns in pregnancy and birth that it can be easy for women to let fear dominate their bodies and their spirits instead of faith. Id’ like to challenge you, whenever you being to let those fears and concerns enter your mind, ask yourself instead, “How would my attitude change if I knew that  God was in charge, and that even if things don’t go as I plan, everything is going to turn out okay?”

Would knowing that you were assured of being successful  give you the patience to wait the last few week for your baby to be ready? Would it give you the courage to make the choices that you know are right for you and your baby? Would it give you the faith to welcome another child in to your family? Would it give you the strength to handle one more contraction, endure one more minute, one more hour?

Like Sister Pearce said in her talk I  answer with a resounding ” Yes!”.

Knowing that you are going to be successful, knowing that you can do it– changes everything. It washes fear away and replaces it with a sweet and powerful faith that God is aware of you and that He is in perfect control of the Universe.

And the most beautiful thing is that God has promised that each of us that we will be successful that we will be happy and that all things will work together for our good. He is aware of each of His children, born and unborn, and he has special experiences planned for each of us on this earth. We can’t always control what those experiences are but when  we remember that God is in charge– and the He wants us to be happy above all else –it makes being afraid and worried seem like a waste of time.

Remember this beautiful promise that God has given to all of His children:

{S}He that endureth in faith and doeth my will, the same shall overcome…” (D&C 63:20).

And that is a promise you can nail your faith to… over and over and over again.

The Mantle of Motherhood

March 30, 2012 in Heather, Motherhood



I am addicted to seeing babies be born, really I am. There are very few things I love more than having the privilege of being at a birth.

While I love the whole process of birth there are two moments that I love more than any other.

The first is the moment when the baby’s head is crowning and birth imminent. The events leading up to that moment are usually full of excitement and anticipation. I love the intensity of the mother as she gives everything she has to bring this baby to the light.  It is the moment when a woman is a wide open portal to heaven and the baby is not quite in the world, but not quite out of it either. That moment never fails to remind me of how fragile life is and how close we really are to heaven.

The second moment I love is watching a mother hold– really hold– her newborn baby for the first time. No matter how her birth experience went there is always something so precious about seeing those two people, who lived so closely together for nine months, meet face to face for the first time. Something beautiful descends upon  a woman the first time she meets her baby and every birth I watch for it– it is the mantle of motherhood. 

In 2 Kings 2 11-15 it tells the story of the prophet and Elijah and how when, he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha picked up his mantle (an outer covering sort of like a cape) and used it. It reads,

“…. Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.

 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.

And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of  Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him.”

Elisha had been chosen by God to be the next prophet of Israel and because He had been chosen by God Elijah’s mantle of power fell upon him making it possible for him to the work God had prepared for him. This “mantle” of power was so tangible and real that the sons of the prophets could actually see a difference in Elisha, saying “The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.”

Just like Elisha had a mantle of power come upon him when he was chosen to be God’s prophet every woman who becomes a mother also has a similar mantle of power come upon her.  Sometimes the mantle’s descent is slow and subtle and other times it comes fast and passionate. For some mothers it happens immediately and is accompanied by tears and sobs , while for others it comes gradually and is accepted with an awed and overwhelmed silence. I’ve seen it happen to women under all sorts of circumstances, after beautiful peaceful births, after long hard births, after emergency c-sections, and even after birth through adoption.  Every time I see that mantle come– whether it is her first baby or her eighth– it  takes my breath away.

President Thomas S. Monson has taught us that,  “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”  Each woman who becomes a mother was called and chosen by God  to become the mother of one of His precious children and with that calling comes an infusion of power.  So often the women I work with as a doula have fears about becoming mothers. If it is their first baby they have fears of uncertainty that they will be good mothers or that they will know what to do with the baby once they have it. If it is their second, third, fourth or eighth baby the have fears of inadequacy, fears of being stretched too thin, and fears that they do not have room in their hearts or in their lives for another baby. All these fears are valid but often times they can be crippling. Every time I hear them I yearn to take that woman in my arms and remind her that God is in perfect control of the universe. That He knows how, when and where each of His precious children need to be born  and that if He has selected her to be the mother of one of these spirits then He will give her the ability to handle what He has called her to do.

Motherhood is an eternal partnership with God  and He does not leave her powerless.

Her mantle is real.